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Gongbi (simplified Chinese: 工笔; traditional Chinese: 工筆; pinyin: gōng bǐ; Wade–Giles: kung-pi) is a careful realist technique in Chinese painting, the opposite of the interpretive and freely expressive xieyi (寫意 ‘sketching thoughts’) style.
The name is from the Chinese gong chin meaning ‘tidy’ (meticulous brush craftsmanship). The gongbi technique uses highly detailed brushstrokes that delimits details very precisely and without independent or expressive variation. It is often highly coloured and usually depicts figural or narrative subjects.
The gongbi style had its beginnings approximately 2000 years ago during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) when Han's political stability and its prosperity favored the advancement of the arts. These paintings peaked out between the Tang and Song Dynasties (7th to 13th centuries) when these refined paintings were endorsed and collected by the royal families of China. The gongbi artists to perfect this style must totally commit themselves to these techniques. Only the wealthy could afford such artists. This style of art was accomplished in secret in royal palaces and private homes.
Process of the craft
Gongbi requires drawing with fine lines first to represent the exaggerated likenesses of the objects, and then adds washes of ink and color layer by layer, so as to approach the perfection of exquisiteness and fine art.
- Yan Liben (c. 600-673)
- Zhang Xuan (713-755)
- Zhou Fang (c. 730-800)
- Gu Hongzhong (937-975)
- Emperor Huizong of Song (1082-1135)
- Tang Yin (1470-1524)
- Qiu Ying (1494-1552)
- Chen Hongshou (1598-1652)
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